Finally, an answer.....?

The long time readers of this blog know I have been struggling for awhile now. Struggling to explain what is going wrong with me. For a year and a half I have not been ok. My personality changed. I was no longer able to do my research for school, I suddenly felt stupid and not up to the task. But I stopped caring anyway. I could no longer enjoy anything. Social events became acts of torture instead of fun. My hair was falling out. For 6 months straight, I woke up with nightmares every morning. Sometimes I would wake gasping or calling out. When the stress gets turned on, that happens again. As it did this morning and yesterday. I feel emotionally dead. Not depressed. This is different. This doesn't respond to anti-depression techniques. I feel like I've lost my mind. I have recurring ruminations that make me feel bad that I can't stop. The words "I'm sorry" will run through my mind ad nauseum. Sometimes I say the words out loud without meaning to...

It's PTSD. I have to have post-traumatic stress disorder. Back in October of 2004 something happened that I think triggered the response from past events. Then my cat got sick in December of 2004. She didn't die until July 2005. Watching her death, and futilely trying to prevent it was the worst thing I've ever gone through in my whole life. There is no greater pain in the world than watching a loved one suffer. That's my best guess as to the cause.

My friend mentioned PTSD. Her mother was diagnosed a few years ago and suggested my friend has it too. Her boyfriend of 3 1/2 years went home for Christmas and sent her an email dumping her. Basically with no explanation. She hasn't been right since. It's like he suddenly died for her, but worse because she was rejected too.

This week she observed that we both have the same symptoms. Since she said that, I have read up on it and remembered the course of my devolution. It all fits. What happens is that the reptile part of your brain takes over to put you in survival mode during a trauma. And then something goes wrong making it stick that way. It probably happens when people don't go through the healing mechanisms needed to get back to normal. Or because they've already had so many other traumas in the past that they are broken. But you become numb to emotion and hypervigilent, living in a constant state of fear and self-protection. It can go on for the rest of your life if you don't fix it. Most PTSDers become alcoholics or drug addicts.

I wasn't able to cry after my kitty died. I just took care of her body and moved on. Then, a month later when I was in Pennsylvania visiting old and dear friends, I broke down. Their cat reminded me of her and I had to shut myself away for two hours in the bathroom. I sat on their floored and bawled my eyes out. I think it was the first time I felt safe enough to grieve. When I got home, there was no more crying. It happened again at my mother's house, I started crying right when I walked through her front door. Then again in the temple lobby. Suddenly I felt like I could breathe. That flooded me with sadness.

I qualify for numbness and hypervigilence, the tell-tale signs. Last year I became agoraphobic. I became afraid of leaving my bedroom. I didn't like it when other people were home or my bedroom door was open. Moving to my own apartment helped, so I'm not as bad anymore. So did moving out of the second worst neighborhood in New York City. Walking past drug dealers everyday was unnerving. But I still can't enjoy being around people. Events with more than one or two others are awful exercises in anxiety.

This made my job tortuous. Imagine being afraid to leave your bedroom, but having to go to the city twice a week to lecture to 3 classes with 40 adult students! It was horrendous. It sapped all my energy, and I couldn't do it well. Getting the job in Long Island was a God-send and helped me relax somewhat. So did the breathing exercises and affirmations.

But these were just bandaids. No matter what I changed, the numbness didn't go away. I couldn't make myself care about anything other than my immediate comfort. And the nightmares, anxiety and instability started coming and going in waves over the summer. It still fluctuates. That's why I thought maybe I was bi-polar. Now I see that the craziness is triggered by the slightest increase in stress, it's not arbitrary. Because it started again this week. Because I can't pay my rent. I expected to get one more paycheck from one of my schools. But the last check came in April, even though I was still teaching in May! So, $600 I had counted on never arrived. I haven't yet found a summer job yet because I just finished teaching on Friday. I turned in my grades yesterday. (Yay me for getting them done in time.)

I need to go to Florida. If I can get there then my mom can help me find the doctors I need, and help pay for them too. There's a car waiting for me. Woo hoo! And I can find temp work and start paying for stuff.

So, this may be very good news. If I do have PTSD, that means I'm not permanently insane. That there is hope for me.